A wealth of experience combined with increased numbers have second-year head coach Ryan Balaz eagerly awaiting for the 2014 Big Walnut boys tennis campaign which opened on Tuesday, April 1, with visiting Dublin Scioto.
The Golden Eagles return six lettermen from last season’s 7-11 squad that tied for fourth place with a 3-4 mark in the Ohio Capital Conference Capital Division. Back from 2013 are senior Logan Adams, a three-year letter winner and recipient of the Most Improved Player Award; senior Grant Burks, a two-year veteran; and seniors Adam Freeburg, Jesse Rines and Scott Bailey, two-year letter winners; and junior Isaiah Kolb, who earned his first varsity letter last season.
“Our six returning lettermen along with senior Garrett Jackson and Andrew Nussbaum for a strong nucleus for 2014. Our team leaders, both on and off the court, are Logan and Grant,” Balaz said. “Overall this group of upperclassmen boasts a wealth of experience and will be counted on to lead the team … this large number of upperclassmen has led to great competition in our early practice sessions.”
Lost to graduation were veteran performers Sean and Jeff Tribble. Sean, a four-year letterman, played second singles and was awarded the Most Valuable Player and OCC Scholar Athlete Awards (he won the Outstanding Doubles Award in 2012). Jeff, a three-year letterman, was the recipient of the coveted Golden Eagle Award for academic and athletic achievements. Also graduating was Thomas Hamann, the recipient of the Coaches Award.
“Losing Jeff and Sean at doubles are key losses, fortunately we have Grant as well as freshmen Jared Deel (Big Walnut Middle School), senior Scott Bailey and Kolb ready to step in and fill their shoes,” Balaz said. “We have numerous student-athletes who will see time at varsity doubles this season.”
In addition to Deel, newcomers to the program include junior John Osburn and sophomore Cameron Duncan, who did not play last season, as well as freshmen from BWMS including Nick Schulz, Mitchell Cholley, Hunter Rankin, DJ Werner and Stephen Pushkin.
“This season we have nine newcomers up from the middle school where the majority of them played tennis. Schulz, Deel and Rushkin will be contributors at the varsity level,” Balaz noted. “Several play tennis the year round which has added greatly to the depth and quality of this year’s team.”
On the sidelines Balaz will be assisted by Josh Pace and Paul Lieurance.
The Golden Eagles’ strengths?
“The team has already developed a great chemistry and support for one another, Balaz said. “They are hard workers and are driven to improve each day. Having six letter winners along with match experience will only help us this season.”
What are their weaknesses?
“In spite of having eight seniors, we have only a few with varsity experience at singles. Our doubles teams will need top mesh quickly as we have a tough schedule,” Balaz said. “As a whole we need to improve serves, footwork and working together on the court in doubles matches.”
Big Walnut’s goals for 2014?
This season we look to improve upon last season’s 7-11 record and fourth-place tie with Delaware Hayes and Watkins Memorial) in the OCC (the Golden Eagles placed fourth behind New Albany, Olentangy and Olentangy Orange),” Balaz said. “Our goals are to win 10 or more matches, finish in the top three in the OCC Capital and have a Division I Central District qualifier.”
Balaz listed four keys to the Golden Eagles being successful:
* Finding the right doubles combinations and meshing quickly.
* Competing at a higher level.
* Playing with confidence and supporting one another.
* Keeping focus on getting better each day.